SACO – Not many high school players can say they’ve had a chance to score on a National Hockey League goalie. But Sunday at MHG Ice Centre in Saco, Thornton Academy’s C.J. Maksut had the chance to beat the netminder of one of his favorite pro teams.
Several opportunities, in fact. Maksut threw a number of shots squarely on Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard but was unable to beat Howard during the Michael T. Goulet Traumatic Brain Injury and Epilepsy Foundation’s “Faceoff For A Cause,” a charity hockey game that drew both a full crowd and a cadre of college, professional and former professional players to the MHG rink.
“It’s incredible,” said Maksut, who will be a senior in the fall. “I’m watching the Red Wings games at home all the time and it’s cool just to be on the same ice surface as him, fighting against him for the puck.”
Scoring on him is another story.
“It’s kind of hard to beat him,” he said. “It’s tough to play against him, but it was a lot of fun and a really good experience for me.
“You don’t see as much net as you usually do and it’s definitely tough to beat him.”
Maksut was one of 40 players who took part in the first benefit game for the Goulet Foundation, aimed at raising awareness of and funding for brain injury and seizure disorder research.
Goulet, a Saco native, suffered a brain injury in a 2003 snowmobile accident.
He developed a seizure disorder and died from complications of a grand mal seizure in October.
Howard, a former UMaine goalie, is spending the offseason training in the Bangor area, and he learned of the event through his wife, Rachel, a friend of the Goulet family.
“It’s for a good cause,” Howard said. “For me, I feel like, to give your time, that’s the best way for me to give back, to come down here and participate in this.”
For John LaLiberte, the cause is personal. He is married to Goulet’s sister.
LaLiberte, a former Boston University standout, spearheaded the charity game, which drew former Boston Bruin Rick Middleton, current Maine Black Bears Matt Mangene and Mark Anthoine, Boston College defenseman and Biddeford resident Brian Dumoulin, former Portland Pirates such as Kent Hulst and former Maine Mariner Paul Evans.
And, LaLiberte said, the name recognition, hockey-wise, helped.
“We hoped to put this together this year and see where it went,” said LaLiberte, who grew up in Saco and currently plays for Augsburg in Germany. “I think we’ve really got some good credibility with this game, to see all the guys from the local community, as well as some of the stars from the Bruins in the old days, to Jimmy Howard. I hope we can keep the momentum going into next year.”
The game was a wide-open, defense-optional, officiating-optional, even a headgear-optional contest, as Middleton and Evans chose to play without helmets.
With under a minute left, Team Marley and Team Hamm, coached by comedians Bob Marley and George Hamm, were tied at 7, which is what the scoreboard read, give or take a few goals.
But as time was about to expire, former Portland Pirates forward Dennis McCauley beat Howard from the slot on a tick-tack-toe play with 0.7 seconds left to give Team Marley the win.
“For the whole family of Mike, this means so much to them,” LaLiberte said. “It’s a way to remember Mike and I’m just honored to be able to help out and help make this a special day.
“But this was a big team effort. Everything’s going to the foundation and we just want to help and contribute something to them.”
Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be contacted at 791-6415 or at: